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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

LING2410 Language Change

20 creditsClass Size: 17

Module manager: Pier Pischedda

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

Students are required to have completed one of the following modules, or equivalent:
- MODL1060 Language: Structure and Sound
- ENGL1021 Analysing English
Students who have not completed MODL1060 Language: Structure and Sound should be prepared to do some additional reading to familiarise themselves with linguistic concepts built on in this module. Chapters 1 to 6 of Genetti’s How languages work: An introduction to language and linguistics (Cambridge University Press, 2014) are a good starting point.

This module is mutually exclusive with

LING3290Language Change

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module introduces students to the study of language change. All languages undergo constant change over time, and they do not do so randomly; moreover, they do so in ways that do not hinder communication between language users of different ages. This module provides insights into how this works. It outlines the most frequently observed linguistic changes over time and discusses theories of why these changes occur and others do not. It covers changes in the meanings use of words and phrases, changes in pronunciation, and a range of grammatical changes in a wide range of languages. It focuses on language-internal factors driving these changes, as opposed to factors such as language contact, and shows that most language change happens because of some fundamental properties of human language; because of recurrent patterns of language use in everyday communication; and because of how languages are passed on from generation to generation. Students are expected to have been introduced to linguistics on a Level 1 module in linguistics or English language before enrolling on this module.


This module aims to:
(1) acquaint students with crucial questions that studies of language change address: what linguistic changes are observed frequently across languages, how do changes spread throughout speech communities, and what, if anything, causes languages to change in the way they do?
(2) survey recurrent patterns of language change, including sound change, semantic change, morphological change and syntactic change
(3) explore the relationship between language variation and change, and consider the extent to which insights from psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, language acquisition studies and phonetics inform our understanding of how language change works
(4) outline some of the main developments in historical linguistics over the past centuries, and introduce students to recent research through seminar discussions of journal articles
(5) develop students' analysis skills through the practical analysis of patterns of change from a variety of languages
(6) develop students' communication and research skills through an assessed coursework assignment

Learning outcomes
On completing this module, students should be able to demonstrate:
(1) an understanding of the crucial questions that studies of language change address, and the main developments in historical linguistics over the past centuries
(2) a familiarity with recurrent patterns of language change, and an ability to analyse data illustrating these patterns, with appropriate guidance
(3) an understanding of the relationship between language variation and change, and of the extent to which insights from psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, language acquisition studies and phonetics inform our understanding of how language change works
(4) an ability to read and discuss current research papers on topics related to language change, with appropriate guidance
(5) an ability to undertake independent research in the area of language change, with appropriate guidance, and communicate its results effectively


This module comprises a lecture programme and a practical programme, running in parallel. The first half of the lecture programme provides a survey of recurrent types of language change at various levels of linguistic organisation: semantic change, sound change, morphological change and so on. The second half explores the dynamics of language change across different subtypes of change, covering aspects of the diffusion of change, the impact of social factors, the impact of usage-related factors such as word frequency and so on. The practical programme alternates two types of class. One is devoted to the practical analysis of selected data illustrating recurrent types of language change. These classes allow students to practice applying concepts introduced in the lectures to selected language data, in guided exercises. The other type of class is devoted to the discussion of selected research papers in the area of language change. These classes allow students to engage with contemporary linguistic research and deepen their understanding of the concepts introduced in the lectures.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students are expected to devote 180 hours of private study time to this module, with the following suggested breakdown:
• Preparing for lectures (background reading): (10x4=) 40 hours
• Preparing for workshops (practical analysis): (5x5=) 25 hours
• Preparing for seminars (research paper reading and summary writing): (5x4=) 20 hours
• Preparing for the data analysis task: 35 hours
• Preparing for the essay: 60 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students are given informal feedback on data-oriented work in the workshop sessions, and on their understanding of research papers and lecture content in seminars. Students are given the opportunity to submit a summary of one of the research papers discussed in the seminars for written feedback; this is designed to support preparation for the assessed essay. Students are also given the opportunity to discuss their essay plan with the lecturer before submission. Students will receive specific guidance on how to prepare for the analysis tasks during two separate sessions towards the end of the semester.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000-word essay60.00
Online AssessmentAnalysis task - data sets with questions40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:25:36


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